Curds and Clay: Midwest Farmers' Markets

These regional markets brim with local delicacies and artisanal goods.
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Michigan's Fulton Street Market.

Michigan's Fulton Street Market.

©2013, Image courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids.

2013, Image courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids.

Michigan's Fulton Street Market.

Farmers’ markets are the ultimate opportunity to get up close and personal with the origins of your food. Chatting with farmers as you select ultra-fresh produce, perusing local cheeses and allowing yourself to be tempted by a delectable whiff of fresh-baked bread…it’s a complete sensory experience that also helps your local farming community.

True fans always love discovering new farmers’ markets, so we’ll be bringing you some of the best by region. Visiting these markets is a great way to learn about the local culture of a new place, not to mention sample its food.

Next time you’re on a road trip, be sure to work one of them into your itinerary!

Fulton Street Farmers Market 
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Notable for being open year-round, this is Michigan’s largest farmers market, now in its 90th season.  The newly-renovated European-style, open-air market (with a covered roof) offers everything from fresh produce to free-range duck eggs and organic meats, plus sauces, salsas and more. There are food trucks, craft items from local artisans, locally-sourced goat cheese, kettle corn, Hungarian baked goods, cider pressed from West Michigan apples in the cooler months and in an innovative program, the market even accepts food stamps so everyone has access to fresh, healthy produce.

When: The market is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 3 PM, first Saturday of May through the last Saturday before Christmas. January through April, the market is open Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM.

Where: 1147 E Fulton, near the corner of Fulton and Fuller Streets, Grand Rapids.

The Historic Haymarket 
Lincoln, Nebraska

The named originated in the 1800s, as a bustling area where livestock, dry goods and produce could be acquired by citizens of the bustling state capitol. Local delicacies testify to the market’s ethnic diversity, from Czech kolache pastries to Greek baklava to crab rangoons. An artisans’ market features outdoor furniture made from reclaimed barn wood and a selection of folk art. The neighborhood now houses trendy restaurants and boutiques, but pays homage to its original purpose every Saturday morning between May and October. Over 200 vendors make this Nebraska’s largest farmers market.

When: The market is open Saturday mornings from 8 AM to 12 PM, May through October. Customers may look and ask vendors to set aside merchandise between 6:00 a.m. and 7:45 a.m, but no purchases may be made until the whistle blows. 

Where: Downtown block of 8th Street, Lincoln, NE.

Soulard Farmers Market 
Saint Louis, Missouri

The oldest continuously-operating farmers market west of the Mississippi, Soulard Farmers Market has been in business since 1779. The market’s 80 vendors offer up great deals on produce, freshly-fried mini-donuts, Baetje farmstead goat cheese, local favorite Gus’ Pretzels including a bratwurst-stuffed pretzel sandwich and even Bloody Marys.

When: The market is open seasonally Wednesday through Friday 8 AM to 5 PM, and Saturday 6 AM to 5 PM. It’s most crowded on Saturdays, when 100% of the market is open year-round. Check the website for current hours and days.

Where: About a mile south of downtown St. Louis on the corner of Lafayette and 7th Streets.

Dane County Farmers Market 
Madison, Wisconsin

When you browse at the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the United States, you can rest assured that the products you see originated with the vendor sitting behind the table. This bustling market draws a large, diverse crowd from hippies to hipsters to shop its 300 eclectic vendors selling local honey, Amish fruit pies and prepared items like empanadas and Jamaican jerk chicken. This being Wisconsin, cheese is a highlight, from 20-year-old aged cheddar to fresh cheese curds and a famous local delicacy: spicy cheese bread.

When: Market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays year-round. Hours vary by season. Check website for current hours.

Where: The State Capitol square in downtown Madison.

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